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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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An interminable meeting with the right result

Uploaded: Aug 15, 2016
Pleasanton Planning Commissioners spent an agonizing number of hours last week nit picking an excellent development proposal for the 15 acres of land between the arroyo and existing development along Stanley Boulevard.
The lynch pin of the project was the contribution of 1.35 acres and $1 million to the city of Pleasanton so it can partner with the Sunflower Hill organization to build housing and a community for developmentally disabled adults. As commissioners heard from a number of parents, there are services available primarily through the school system until their children turn 22—services then are limited and there’s no daily program or residential program.
Their understandable concern is how to ensure safe and meaningful lives for their adult children, particularly after they die. Sunflower Hill already is working on housing in Livermore and has partnered with developer Mike Serpa on this project. The need is substantial—1,600 developmentally disabled adults live in Livermore and Pleasanton, most with their parents.
The Sunflower site will be surrounded by two-story homes, which also will run along Stanley Boulevard. The goal is a neighborhood with the Sunflower site integrated with the surrounding homes.
Another unique aspect of this project is the large footprints of the homes on the lots. In contrast to typical single-family home subdivisions, there will be no driveways and backyards that are quite small. They will be ideal for empty nesters who do not want to garden (we have a good friend who moved into a similar development in Hacienda Business Park specifically because they did not want to care for a yard—all they needed was a patio for the BBQ.)
They also could fit millennials, although they typically value urban environments and that’s not Pleasanton.
Serpa would not be pinned down on potential pricing, but did observe that if they were marketing the homes today, they would start in the $800k range—that about $200k less than the median sales price in Pleasanton.
Assuming the project moves forward, this will be a lottery project.
The Wednesday meeting last week seemed interminable—the Irby Ranch item was first on the agenda and the public comment (limited to 2 minutes per speaker) did not start until after 8 p.m. as some commissioners questioned the staff and the developer ad nauseum. The public comment took almost two hours (I was the second-to-the-last speaker at just before 10 p.m.)
The emails to the commissioners contained plenty of comments against (primarily about traffic impacts) that presumably were ginned up by Pleasantonvoters.com, but only two people spoke against the project at the public hearing. The rest of the many, many speakers favored the project. It’s really easy to bang out an email, but sitting through a Pleasanton meeting demonstrates commitment.
Notably, the city’s traffic engineer, Mike Tessano, said that the only project on that site with less traffic impact would be warehouses. There is no demand or market for warehouse space near downtown. The land is way too valuable.
A few parents, who were long-time residents, spoke passionately about Pleasanton as a “city of planned progress.” That was true until the mid-1900s when it started to transition.
Now, it is “planned process”—no progress is necessary as long as the process drags on.
That “process” coupled with the commissioners’ questions during the first portion of the meeting caused Susan Houghton, president of Sunflower Hill, to skip her planned PowerPoint presentation and simply speak from her heart about whether Pleasanton was truly a “community of character.” She correctly called the commissioners out.
This project was a close to a no-brainer as you can find, yet the commissioners, after meeting for three hours, took another 90 minutes (that’s right, it was a 4 1/2 -hour meeting) before finally approving the project unanimously. Really.
It now moves to the City Council on Sept. 6. If it is approved—as would be expected given the council already has declared Sunflower Hill its preferred partner—then the organization would hope to have entitlements before the end of year so it can apply for tax-credit financing in March of 2017. If all goes well, construction could begin in early 2018.
Incidentally, Sunflower also is pursuing a 45-unit project in Livermore on east First Street across from the Safeway shopping center. It’s worth comparing the public process.

Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Lisa, a resident of Amador Valley High School,
on Aug 16, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Lisa is a registered user.

You hit it squarely out of the park. I sat in the audience and was amazed about that commission. They should focus on the proposal, the facts and quit trying to be "slick" deal makers


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Julie, a resident of Kottinger Ranch,
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:22 am

The best and most effective Planning Commission I've seen in years was the Pentin, Narum, Olson, Pierce and Blank Commission. With three of those five now on Council, I am hopeful that this application will be efficiently and effectively heard by that body.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by local, a resident of Vineyard Hills,
on Aug 19, 2016 at 5:34 pm

The Sunflower Hill project will not be built for a long time, if at all. The amount of capital and management this organization, which is great by the way, will need will be going to be working on the Livermore for a long time.

I could support this project if, and only if, they cannot get the entitlements for their housing until the Sunflower Hill project is approved and permits issued.

Tim, you seem to have a history of working/speaking on project that end up with bait-and-switch. You worked on the Ponderosa projects which was approved because there was land for a school and a church there. The school option is now housing. The church is being rezoned to additional housing. This project will be the same.

I warn the public to get out of fantasy land. This project sounds great but the developer is doing this to get you to support his project. They is no requirement/guarantee that the Sunflower Hill project will be build. I encourage you to only support this project if the council puts in conditions that the entitlements are not there until the Sunflower Hill project has been approved and permits pulled. I would also add that the developer does not get any occupancy permits for their houses until Sunflower Hill has occupancy. If you don't demand this, you will be sorry. Pleasanton has a history of believing developers will provide something and then once their development is done, they leave town without their commitments. Nothing you can do at that point. I am sure the developer is committed to the Sunflower Hill project and will agree to these conditions. If not, I would question their commitment.

I would love to see a Sunflower Hill project in Pleasanton. This plan is just smoke and mirrors however.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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